“This is like art right here; this is fuckin’ soul…This is the look of this revolution, this generation. That’s the way it looks to them when they’re comfortable around somebody, and they feel like it’s theirs and their people are seeing it.” –Diddy
Written By Niki Gatewood (@THE_NikiG)
Sean “Diddy” Combs is one of Hip-Hop’s most influential architects. Having introduced the Notorious B.I.G., one of the genres most impactful MCs, Diddy also recognizes the unabashed talent of prolific photographer, Jorge Peniche. Although the Left-coast prodigy is primarily known for his captivating shots, he does not limit his artistic or financial repertoire to mere photography.
Read along as Peniche discusses everything from his start to ‘Victory Lap.’
Cultivating a career in the arts is a courageous feat. Who and or what circumstances first aroused your creativity; when did you fully comprehend that you personally possessed the courage and determination to manifest your artistic aspirations?
Growing up, I always had an affinity for the arts. Since I was a kid I challenged myself to create everything I could imagine. This insatiable drive to innovate and create has followed me into adulthood and is responsible for my involvement in the arts today as a profession. I got involved in the entertainment industry in 2006 through a series of introductions via, Ben Baller, who ultimately got me involved with, DJ Skee, at Hype Public Relations. My photography career was unintentionally kick-started by this introduction and opportunity. I worked with Skee lending my talents to whatever I could at the time. Throughout my months working with him I always carried my camera with me to document my experience at Hype. After a couple of months working with Skee he asked me if I could take some new publicity shots for him. I gladly accepted his request and in the end Skee liked the portraits I shot of him. A few weeks later I received a call from Skee asking if I was interested in photographing Game and his team for a new project they were working on together entitled The Black Wall Street Journal, Vol. 1. Again, I took advantage of the opportunity and headed down to his office to meet with Skee and Game. That night I shot with Game, Ya Boy, Juice, Skee and a couple of other guys. From that night on I dropped by a couple of more studio sessions with Game and began to build a rapport with him.
Once I realized that my photographs had something special to them, I dedicated more time to the craft and learned about the art and business of photography. I started shooting regularly and publishing my work online. Soon after, I started receiving commissioned work from different publications and artists. I then took it a step further and implemented my other talents to my work. I think the one that’s complimented my photography the most is my graphic design work. It’s allowed me to express myself fully as an artist when shooting and designing albums. The most recognized projects being Nipsey Hussle’s The Marathon, DJ Quik’s The Book of David, and Schoolboy Q’s Habits & Contradictions. Those projects earned me recognition and respect on my art and branding execution.
How would you describe your relationship with Hip-Hop; in what ways if any, has your perception evolved since your trigger finger has become responsible for helping to capture and share some of its integral memories?
By fully immersing myself in my craft and the culture I give people an honest and open window into the lives of my subjects. Most importantly, building relationships with the people I shoot is the distinguishing factor between my work and that of others. It is photo-reportage meets classic portraiture. In respect to the demands of an artist, my perception has changed over the last 7 years through working closely with [these] artists. I’ve realized the amount of dedication, patience, and faith that’s required from them to either maintain their relevancy, or become forces to be reckoned with in the industry. Their work ethic and evolution as artists inspires me to push myself to perform at the highest level and also evolve as an artist.
You’re closely associated with photographing Nipsey Hussle. In addition to photography you’re an accomplished director, and emerging business-man. Why are you compelled to diversify and develop multiple revenue streams; how do you stay focused?
I’m a hustler as much as I am an artist. I’m a firm believer that art and commerce can co-exist. I seek to successfully do that by keeping a balance between the two. Never straying away too much from one or the other. I sincerely believe that you can do whatever you set your mind to. We’re all creative individuals with an abundance of resources; it’s up to us to research, plan, and execute our visions. A great example in the Hip-Hop game is Jay Z.
He doesn’t allow titles and stereotypes to dictate the limits of his entrepreneurial spirit. He’s a pioneer breaking down walls setting precedence, blazing new trails for those who follow after him. People like him inspire me. I’d like to do the same in my own respective manner. Who said a photographer can’t write a book, design a branding campaign, or start a promising app company? I’m looking to push the limits of my talents through all my ventures. I stay focused by having them all complement each other. Furthermore, I don’t allow for any static or outside input to deviate me from my plan.
To date, you’ve used your artistry in conjunction with an array of clientele. What campaign was the most creatively challenging; which was the most personally rewarding?
Hands down, the campaign that’s been both most creatively challenging and rewarding is The Marathon project with Nipsey Hussle. The Marathon marked the end of Nipsey’s run with Epic Records and the birth of a newly found independence that we branded as ‘The Marathon.’ It represented a crossroads for him. He was met with adversity and pressure to perform at the highest level without the financial resources he once had available. He had a chip on his shoulder. Due to him deciding to part ways with Epic, and the indefinite postponement of his major debut album, people began to question his ability to deliver another classic project. Our goal with this project and series was to make a statement.
His responsibility was to create a classic music project with songs that put everything out on the line and addressed the world on what was going on. My responsibility was to create artwork that would turn the page on the Bullets Aint Got No Name era. The stakes were high; it was do or die! We set out to create something that was visually distinct and would open a new chapter for Nipsey’s brand. The byproduct was The Marathon cover. Driven by a simple headshot of Nipsey, we used classic verses of his to create his face with text art. The color scheme we used black, white, and red. For our typography we referenced LIFE magazine’s classic red and white logo to set the mood for the online photo book we released filled with beautiful black and white photo reportage style images. Following its critical acclaim, the album served as the blueprint for how we would release projects from then on. It consequently served as a catalyst for how a lot of other artists began to treat their projects in respect to both music and branding.
Until the next time, what would you like to share with TheSource.com?
The world is your pLAyground! Also keep your ears to the street for Victory Lap, Nipsey’s best project to date hands-down. Classic!